Billy Barty (October 25, 1924 – December 23, 2000) was an American film actor.
Barty, an Italian American, was born William John Bertanzetti in Millsboro, Pennsylvania. He co-starred with Mickey Rooney in the Mickey McGuire shorts, a comedy series of the 1920s and 1930s based on the "Toonervile Trolley" comics, and similar in tone to the "Our Gang"/"Little Rascals" comedies. In The Gold Diggers of 1933, a nine-year-old Barty appeared as a baby who escapes from his stroller. He also appeared as The Child in Footlight Parade (1933). Because of his stature, much of his work consisted of bit parts and gag roles, although he was featured prominently in The Day of the Locust (1975), W.C. Fields and Me (1976), The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977), Foul Play and The Lord of the Rings (both 1978), Under the Rainbow (1981), Night Patrol (1984), Legend (1985), Masters of the Universe (1987), Willow (1988), UHF (1989), Life Stinks and Radioland Murders (1994). Beginning in 1958 he played pool hustler Babby, who was a sometime "information resource" for Pete, in 8 episodes of the Peter Gunn TV series. Barty was known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm for any productions in which he appeared. He also performed a remarkable impression of pianist Liberace. He performed with the Spike Jones musical comedy show on stage and television, including Club Oasis on NBC. Earlier, he appeared several times on NBC's The Dennis Day Show, including once as a leprechaun. Barty played the evil sidekick on the 1970s Saturday morning TV series Dr. Shrinker, and was a regular cast member of Redd Foxx's variety show The Redd Foxx Show. He was regularly seen on the Canadian comedy show Bizarre, a weekly Canadian TV sketch comedy series, airing from 1980 to 1985. The show was hosted by John Byner.
Barty also starred in a local Southern California children's show, "Billy Barty's Bigtop," in the mid-1960s, which regularly showed The Three Stooges shorts. In one program, Stooge Moe Howard visited the set as a surprise guest. The program gave many Los Angeles-area children their first opportunity to become familiar with little people, who until then had been rarely glimpsed on the screen except as two-dimensional curiosities.
Barty also starred as "Sigmund" in the popular children's television show "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" produced by Sid and Marty Krofft in 1974-1976. In 1983, Barty supplied the voice for Figment in EPCOT Center's Journey Into Imagination dark ride. He subsequently supplied a reprisal for the second incarnation, though very brief.
Barty was a noted activist for the promotion of rights for others with dwarfism. He was disappointed with contemporary Hervé Villechaize's insistence that they were "midgets" instead of actors with dwarfism. Barty founded the Little People of America to help with his activism.
Barty was married to Shirley Bolingbroke of Malad City, Idaho, from 1962 until his death. They had two children, Lori Neilson and TV/film producer and director Braden Barty.
Barty and his family belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A tribute book on his life was published in December 2002. Within Reach: An Inspirational Journey into the Life, Legacy and Influence of Billy Barty was produced by Barty's nephew, Michael Copeland, and Michael's wife, Debra.
Barty was a beloved annual guest-star on Canada's Telemiracle telethon, one of the most successful (per capita) telethons in the world.
In 1990 Barty was sued in small claims court by two of the writers of his cancelled comedy TV series Short Ribbs, which aired for 13 weeks in Fall 1989 as a local program on KDOC-TV; producer and writer William Winckler, and writer Warren Taylor, filed separate lawsuits against Barty for money owed, and Barty lost both cases. News of Barty losing in small claims court made headlines all over the world, with lead stories such as Barty Comes Up Short in Small Claims, and other such puns. Barty claimed the lawsuit news was the most negative publicity he ever got, and compared it to similar bad press Zsa Zsa Gabor received for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer.
In 1991 Barty was the subject of a punk rock song called "Lou's in the House" recorded by The Squids. The songs first lyric is "Billy Barty had a party and everyone was there."
Barty died of heart failure in 2000 at age 76. He was entombed in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.
Billy Barty owned a rollerskating rink in Fullerton, California, called "Billy Barty's Roller Fantasy". A movie started shooting there in the mid 80's but was never completed.
"The name of my condition is cartilage hair hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy."
Hospitalized overnight for injuries from a motor scooter accident during a parade. [28 May 1999]
Founder of The Little People of America Inc., a philanthropic organization of which no one taller than 4 ft 6 inches may become a member.
Father of a son, Braden Barty and a daughter, Lori.
His funeral was held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in North Hollywood, California on December 27, 2000.
Billy died at 9:20 a.m. PST at Glendale Memorial Hospital after a two-week stay with lung and heart problems.
He was a noted crusader for the greater public knowledge and social acceptance of dwarfs and was angered at his contemporary with a similar condition, Hervé Villechaize, for hampering his efforts by publicly insisting that he (Villechaize) was a midget instead.
He hosted his own daily kids TV show, "Billy Barty's Big Show" (1963), where he entertained and informed his viewers and studio audiences in between reruns of The Three Stooges films. It was seen weekday afternoons on KTTV Ch.11 in Hollywood, California from the early to mid 1960s.
In 1991, after the first Gulf War, Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show, spoke of making a movie about it. When somebody suggested casting Billy Barty, Limbaugh said he was dead; however, the next day, Barty, who admitted he listened to Limbaugh's show regularly but had missed it that day, called in to prove otherwise.
Has a granddaughter, Tina.
He was on the Board with former President George Bush to help pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Audio book: "Highlights from Within Reach," available only from the official web-site. [October 2005]
Majored in journalism at L.A. City College and was both sports editor and public relations director of the "L.A. Collegian" newspaper.
Had an admirable college career in sports: He played both football and basketball, plus ran 50 yards in 7.2 seconds.
Los Angeles KRTH-FM Radio News Director Steve Fredericks once asked the 3-foot, 10-inch-tall actor in an interview whether, if he could suddenly become a "big" person, if he would choose that. After a long and thoughtful pause, Barty said, "No . . . because I've made all the adjustments.".
Said one of his major pet peeves was when people would try to pick him up as though he were a child.
Ironically, in 1990 producer/writer William Winckler sued Billy Barty in Small Claims Court in Van Nuys, California for money that was owed him on the TV comedy series Short Ribbs, and Winckler won the case against Barty. The press had a "field day" with all the publicity, stories ran through AP, UPI, The Daily News, ABC-TV News Los Angeles by reporter Joe McMann, and news swept throughout the country. Stories of Billy Barty being sued in Small Claims Court appeared in nearly every newspaper in the U.S. and internationally, on radio news shows, and covered by TV news stations. Entertainment Tonight ran a story on Billy Barty being taken to small claims court. Barty himself said it was the most negative publicity he ever had in his life, with headlines such as "Small Billy Barty in Small Claims," "Barty Comes Up Short in Small Claims," etc. . Barty added that he got nearly as much publicity as Zsa Zsa Gabor did for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer around the same time (1990). Short Ribbs writer Warren Taylor also sued Barty in Small Claims Court and won this case as well.
The general public thinks all little people are in circuses or sideshows. We have doctors, nurses, just about every field covered.
[from a 1988 interview] I've never looked at acting as "Ahhh!" and "Gee!" I started in vaudeville when I was five and for me it was just walking on a stage and I'm gonna perform. Later on I was impressed by many things, like when I worked with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in Tough Guys (1986). That was an "Ahhh!" for me. When I look back, even today, I guess I can go "Ahhh!" because I worked with Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell in Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) when I was nine. Then they were just grown-ups on the stage. As I look back, I'm more awed now than I was when I was actually doing it.
The hardest thing is to erase from minds the stereotypes that people have about people of short stature. You don't see any little people doing newscasts, you don't see any doing sports writing, you don't see any sports announcing, you don't see any coaches, but there are little people who are capable of doing these things, who have proven themselves.
That's where it starts and sometimes finishes. My parents never told me I was small, so I never knew any better. They had to sign for me to play football and basketball, but they never said, "No, you can't. You're too small." I'm not the only one who has proved little people can get along in a big world. There are other little people out there who are doctors, lawyers, school teachers, electronics engineers.